WASHINGTON — Beto O'Rourke won't make a decision on a presidential run until February at the earliest, a source close to the former Texas congressman told NBC News.
As other potential 2020 Democrats have sped up their preparations, O'Rourke has laid low back home in El Paso, posting Instagram videos of his kids and cats since losing his Senate race against Republican Ted Cruz in November.
Activists in Iowa and New Hampshire who have spoken to other potential candidates say they haven't yet heard from O’Rourke. And his campaign stopped running ads on Facebook last year, while other likely candidates have kept theirs up long past Election Day in order to try to grow their list of supporters ahead of a potential launch.
But the radio silence may say less about O'Rourke’s intentions than the fact that he’s aware his every move is being watched as his stature climbs in early 2020 polling.
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O'Rourke is taking a characteristically unconventional approach to weighing the decision, including a potential solo road trip that would take him outside of Texas — but not to Iowa or other early primary and caucus states — to speak candidly with everyday Americans, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The move would be in keeping with his Senate campaign, when he livestreamed long stretches of drives through all of Texas' 254 counties.
Last month, O'Rourke told The Dallas Morning News he was concerned about the impact a presidential campaign would have on his family and said he wanted to take some time away to "regroup," potentially with a trip to a remote wilderness area in New Mexico.
"I'd love to take a backpack up into the Gila Wilderness and just spend some time thinking through stuff," O'Rourke, who vacated his House seat this month, told the paper.
Still, he hasn't been totally absent from the political scene, posting two slickly edited videos about the border amid the ongoing government shutdown over President Donald Trump's demand for a border wall.
And O'Rourke met recently with some prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, civil rights leader and MSNBC host Al Sharpton, and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.
Meanwhile, some supporters are not waiting around for O'Rourke to make a decision.
Two separate groups — DraftBeto.org and DraftBeto2020.org — have been established to try to draw him into the 2020 contest, with the former attracting the support of some well-known Democrats in key states, such as Tyler Jones, who helped engineer Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham's upset victory in South Carolina last year, and Michael Soneff, a former top staffer in the Nevada Democratic Party.
"It would be really cool to show him how real it is, that it's more than hype in the media or on social media," said Nate Lerner, the co-founder of Draft Beto. "So many people want to see him run, even if he's not their first choice. He's such a good communicator that just having him on the stage will be an asset for the Democratic Party."
The group, which has a core team of 16 volunteers and growing, hopes to build momentum for O'Rourke and bundle together donations that it could hand him on day one of a campaign should he decide to run.
They're also working with a production that previously worked with newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on a video to promote O'Rourke, and they're raising money to put up billboards in early states.
"Beto can replicate what Obama did so well, which is communicate the ideas behind the policy," Lerner said.